Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Bravely Being Who She Is: Anthea

"I love your hair," I said, holding the door for her as she walked out of the cafe in Booth Bay Harbor. I am partial to afros, especially big ones.

"Thank you!" she said heartily. "But it's not really liking me today, it's not behaving."

I looked again. It looked great to me. "What's the matter with it?" I asked.

"Not enough poof..." she said.

I doubled over. It was a great line. Looking around us, seeing the mostly coiffed hairdos in Maine, I would say her poof was plentiful. But it was all relative. To her, it was not enough.

"I have to give you a gold star for that," I said, "for wanting MORE poof, for not having to tame yourself, to try to fit in."

She laughed and pointed at herself. "There's no way I'm fitting in here anyway," she said.

We introduced ourselves. Anthea Butler was, not surprisingly, in Booth Bay from out of town, from Philadelphia, where she is an assistant professor of religious studies at University of Pennsylvania.

I knew how she felt. My poof was likewise larger than the normal New England hair around me, my outfits more New Yorker than Mainer. But I, like Anthea, was trying to be myself rather than fit the image of the place where I was. It is not always easy.

Like with religion, we have to decide who we want to be, which is hard enough, and then have the guts to stand up for who we are when others might have much to say about it, might try to dissuade you from being different because of what it might mean about their own decisions.

Anthea and I talked briefly about religion, I about my putting my kids in hebrew school despite not exactly being a devout Jew, she of her status as a "dissenting catholic."

"Well," I said, "people are always going to choose something...we need to believe, right?"

Anthea agreed, nodding her head with what I would say was a great deal of fabulous poof!

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